Clinical Impact of Multiplex Molecular Diagnostic Testing in Children with Acute Gastroenteritis Presenting to An Emergency Department: A Multicenter Prospective Study

medRxiv [Preprint]. 2023 Jul 31:2023.07.27.23293208. doi: 10.1101/2023.07.27.23293208.


Background: Multiplex molecular diagnostic panels have greatly enhanced detection of gastrointestinal pathogens. However, data on the impact of these tests on clinical and patient-centered outcomes are limited.

Methods: We conducted a prospective, multicenter, stepped-wedge trial to determine the impact of multiplex molecular testing at five academic children's hospitals in children presenting to the ED with acute gastroenteritis. Caregivers were interviewed on enrollment and again 7-10 days after enrollment to determine symptoms, risk factors, subsequent medical visits, and impact on family members. During the pre-intervention period, diagnostic testing was performed at the discretion of clinicians. During the intervention period, multiplex molecular testing was performed on all children with results available to clinicians. Primary outcome was return visits to a health care provider within 10 days of enrollment.

Results: Potential pathogens were identified by clinician ordered tests in 19/571 (3.3%) in the pre-intervention period compared to 434/586 (74%) in the intervention period; clinically relevant pathogens were detected in 2.1% and 15% respectively. In the multivariate model adjusting for potential confounders, the intervention was associated with a 21% reduction in the odds of any return visit (OR 0.79; 95% CI 0.70-0.90). Appropriate treatment was prescribed in 11.3% compared to 19.6% during the intervention period(P=0.22).

Conclusions: Routine molecular multiplex testing for all children presenting to the ED with AGE detected more clinically relevant pathogens and led to a 21% decrease in return visits. Additional research is needed to define patients most likely to benefit from testing.

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  • Preprint